Howard Wilkinson is the only ex-Brighton & Hove Albion player to manage the England national football team, which he fulfilled on a caretaker basis in two spells, in 1999 and 2000.
In his playing career, he was an ex-England youth international who joined Sheffield Wednesday in June 1962, making his First Division debut in the 1964/65 season. After 22 League games and three goals, he arrived at the Goldstone Ground in July 1966.
Posing with Bob Fuller, an Albion reserve
At Brighton, he is remembered as a smart and direct outside-right who could skin a full-back for pace and put in a good cross. Even so, in his book ‘Managing to Succceed’ in 1992, Howard Wilkinson described how he was ‘gaining no sense of fulfilment from being a Third Division footballer with Brighton.’ Perhaps this was because after an injury in December 1966, he never fully re-established himself and was often substitute.
He went on to say that:
‘When I was a player at Brighton, under manager Archie Macaulay’s guidance, we had some remarkable preparations for important matches and cup-ties. There were liberal doses of sherry and raw eggs, calves foot jelly, fillet steak, and plenty of walks on the seafront where we were taken to fill our lungs with the ozone.’
After featuring sporadically in 1969/70, Wilkinson found first-team chances limited by the emergence and form of Peter O’Sullivan. As a result, he was given a free transfer in May 1971.
With his propensity for hugging the line, Wilkinson was rarely a goal threat himself in his time at Brighton, getting on the scoresheet just twice in his final two seasons. When he entered management, Wilkinson’s idea of the role of a wide man did not bring out the best of a future Albion player:
The highly skilful Mark Chamberlain was an England international winger. Graham Barnett, his coach at Port Vale, described him as ‘like a bloody gazelle… a black jewel… he’s got the bloody lot… he’s class… so much better than John Barnes.’
This explosive goal for Stoke City against Brighton in 1982/83 is an example of what he was capable of:
Although he had slipped down the England order by then, a disastrous move to Wilkinson’s Sheffield Wednesday in 1986 for £700,000 put paid to any hopes of further caps. As Chamberlain told 90 Minutes magazine (24 July 1993):
It was a nightmare. I just didn’t fit in with his scheme of things. Like all of his teams, Wednesday played to a very strict pattern and anybody who slipped out of that pattern was seen as a liability. In the end I couldn’t really get away quick enough.
He joined Portsmouth in 1988 but endured injury problems and loss of form. When Jim Smith arrived as Pompey boss, it led to a renaissance in his career:
‘He told me that I wasn’t just a winger who should sit out wide and wait for things to happen, that I should get myself involved throughout the game. Last season, things really clicked. I felt a lot happier with my consistency and I think I played the best football of my career since I left Stoke.’
After a hernia operation in summer 1994, Chamberlain arrived at the Goldstone for a trial. He scored on his debut against Plymouth in August with this splendid drive:
Thereafter, though, he struggled for form having lost a lot of his pace, and 24 years after Wilkinson received the same fate from Brighton, Chamberlain was released at the end of 1994/95. Perhaps Archie Macaulay’s methodology, described above, involving sherry and raw eggs, calves foot jelly, fillet steak, and plenty of walks on the seafront, might have done wonders for Chamberlain’s twilight years. As it was, when he joined Exeter, he took a more conventional step for an ageing winger seeking to extend his career, by shifting to right-back position.